How to improve work performance: boost results and minimize stress

How to improve work performance? This is a question that can be interpreted in many ways: simpler interpretations include how to become more efficient at work or how to make your work less stressful or even enjoyable.

But in reality, work is generally the place where one collaborates with others to undergo a transformation and “produce,” that is, to transform raw materials into an object useful to others, or a jumble of confused ideas into a readable and clear essay, and in general, to increase the quality of life for the people our product, whether physical or cognitive, is intended for.

In this broader sense, how to improve work performance means contributing more to the world through meaningful and useful relationships with others. If you believe that acquiring digital skills can improve the quality of your work and your life, I recommend the Online Digital Marketing Course by Digital Coach.

How to improve work performance

Generally, the obstacles that stand between a person and improving their work are so many and varied that it is easy to answer yes. Of course, there are extreme cases, such as athletes, where perfect performance is achieved through extensive training, trials, and micro-interventions on every movement, and in some cases, a value is reached resulting from so many variables that touching anything risks worsening rather than improving.

But while the majority of workers can improve their techniques, work on themselves, and become more skilled in certain tasks, all workers, including high-level athletes, always have a task that changes continuously over time and for which the maximum cannot be reached and stopped there: the relational aspect.

A football player must relate to the team, and the team changes continuously, both for the players/colleagues and for their physical condition and for what is asked of them to build something together.

Work-life is rarely a static monolith where one can achieve peak performance and have nothing more to learn; being essentially a relational activity (even in the case of team sports), your work can be made optimal for a particular situation and then must be changed in a different situation.

So, beyond the difficulties and limits, it can be said that you can always improve your work performance simply by making yourself more suitable for the contingent situation in which you operate.

Work is a mental activity that can be influenced

Even when it comes to entirely manual activity, work is always an activity that concerns the mind. It is the mind that gives meaning to the work of the hands, and it is the mind that can find a well-done job rewarding or be indifferent to the result and therefore operate with less care and probably with lower quality.

Imagine, for example, two women knitting socks for a newborn: one of them is a pregnant woman who carefully prepares clothes for the baby about to be born, while the other is a detainee forced to do forced labor who has to knit for a baby she will never see.

As much as their actions may be the same, and the result may be indistinguishable, there is no comparison between the two jobs; in the first case, we have a person who realizes herself in sewing, and who sews while dreaming, in the other, a person who alienates herself in sewing, and who may sew harboring resentment against the child who will make use of her work.

strategies work improvement

The difference between the two situations is undoubtedly a difference in life status, but what interests us is that it is also, and perhaps above all a difference in outlook on what one is doing. The hands do the same things, but the mind does different things.

And so, it is often possible to act on your mind so that an initially thankless activity becomes an activity in which a person realizes herself, where she loses track of time, where she abandons herself.

From the clock that never moves, we move on to the clock that runs so fast that we don’t realize it’s already dinner time. The quantity and quality of things done can be the same, but in one case, we have a person who works hard, with effort, and uses a lot of energy, in the other, a person who almost forgets herself in the action she is performing and who instead of getting tired, regenerates by working.

Perhaps not from the point of view of the result, but certainly from that of the process, a strong improvement in one’s work has been achieved.

How to motivate yourself

In the case of dependent work, the task of motivating workers is entrusted to their superiors; unfortunately, sometimes the inadequacy of leaders or the particular nature of the work performed does not allow for effective motivation, and one is forced to self-motivate to improve one’s work.

As we saw in the previous paragraph, motivation in one’s work lies not so much in anticipating the fruits that work will bring, even if it’s the pay cheque, but in finding meaning in what one does, in trying to understand how one’s work is not a senseless activity but is directed towards a valid project. Here’s a summary of an ancient story that explains this way of seeing one’s work as a creative action and not as a tedious task: the three stonecutters.

A pilgrim along the road meets a man, sweaty and tired, hammering a stone and trying to square it. He asks, “What are you doing?” The man replies, “Can’t you see? I’m hammering a stone.” Walking on, the pilgrim found a second man equally tired, intent on squaring a stone. “What are you doing?” “Can’t you see? I’m working hard to feed my two daughters.” Further on, the man met a third stonecutter, no less exhausted than the other two. “What are you doing?” “Can’t you see?” said the man pointing to a huge building under construction just ahead “I’m building a cathedral”.

how to motivate yourself at work

In many cases, it is really difficult to understand the meaning of one’s work; in large companies, the relationship between various departments seems to be designed to create processes, even complicated and tiring ones, whose purpose is completely nullified by the subsequent process.

However, if you can find meaning in your actions, it will be easier and lighter, more beautiful; this is not possible in every workplace, but where it is, it’s worth lifting your gaze from the daily task and trying to see the project you are collaborating on from above.

In some workplaces, the environment is so toxic that this attempt to look at things differently is practically impossible. In these cases, it might be worth considering the possibility of changing workplaces or requalifying for something else. At this point, it may be useful to follow after-work corporate courses to update yourself; increasing your skills serves, on the one hand, to work better where you already are, on the other hand, to prepare for more satisfying opportunities.

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Dependent or subordinate work

One of the main distinctions is between self-employment and dependent work. In the former, you have a variety of tools to improve the quality of your work: simply changing the position of a light source or the room temperature can have a significant impact on the productivity, well-being, and efficiency of your actions.

In the case of dependent work, you may not be able to choose the heat temperature of the light bulb you work with, but even in that case, you can implement strategies to make it easier, and more comfortable, and improve work performance. We will see them below.

Do your job well

A truly classic way to motivate yourself and improve your work performance is to start doing it well. The pleasure of a job well done is often a source of motivation in itself. If some parts of your work seem boring to you because they are repetitive and you tend to be a bit lazy in execution, try to do your best even in those tasks. Check if, in the end, when the result is in front of you, you can get passionate about it and find a reason to work well.

It’s a simple technique, but often, dissatisfied individuals have never tried to give their best throughout the process, including the less pleasant parts, and the results are sometimes surprising. Of course, this technique works best when you can see the result of your efforts. If what you do has no visible result for you, it’s difficult to derive any benefits from it.

How to behave with colleagues

The relationship with colleagues is of fundamental importance in staying motivated. If you are part of a work team, the fact that you do your part in an optimal way that fits with the work of colleagues to produce an excellent result is a strong source of motivation and satisfaction.

healthy work environment

Knowing that you are not alone but working with professionals who know their stuff and are willing to help you – or ask for your help – makes work a collaborative effort that is very enjoyable when it works. However, not all work teams feel this spirit that contributes to the well-being, serenity, and efficiency of all its members.

In this case, you might find yourself in a team with one or more demotivated, depressed, stressed individuals who can make your work more challenging. Clarifying that the task of making the team a space where everyone collaborates toward a common goal is not yours but the team leader’s, there are some small tips you can follow to make your team a better environment.

Your colleagues are not necessarily your friends, but it is certainly a good habit to understand that they are people like you, facing the same difficulties, and always be very kind to them. When you arrive at the office, show that you are happy to see their faces and greet them with enthusiasm. This attitude should not be artificial; on the contrary, you should find sincere reasons why you are glad to see this person and that one.

Avoid situations where a group of colleagues speaks ill of an absent colleague. If you have something to say to a colleague to correct them, do not do it behind their back or in public; do it in private, only with them. Explain the reasons why their particular behavior disrupts the harmony of the workplace, and always do it with kindness and without assuming that you are right.

Even if you dislike a person, still avoid complaining about it or involving colleagues in your dislike. You are not obligated to have close relationships with your colleagues, but you can always be discreet and kind to them. Avoid falling into provocations, and if necessary, remember that in the vast majority of cases, it is better to appear weak than aggressive.

How to behave with the boss

Having a good relationship with the boss is a slightly different task than with colleagues. At work, your boss is not your equal and has responsibilities toward you. His work may seem easy to you, seen from your workplace where you struggle while he spends most of his time talking to people.

But the fact is that his job consists of this. He has subordinates who depend on his directives and strategic directions; he probably often has heated discussions with your colleagues, and therefore, he undergoes a greater stress load. This stress is unavoidable because the result of the group he manages represents the result of his coordination work. Although cases of difficult and unresponsive bosses are not rare, normally they are ordinary people with good intentions.

For this reason, my advice is to carefully take note of his feedback and consider it greatly – few things are more frustrating than indicating without it being followed. When you need to report a problem, try to propose a solution. It is by no means certain that your solution will be accepted, but the boss will perceive your intervention not as a destructive complaint but as a report, with a willing attempt at resolution. Present your solution diplomatically, as a discreet suggestion, not as an order. Your boss receives orders himself and may not be very happy to receive assertive instructions even from his subordinates.

Keep a low profile, try to be interested in him as a person (bosses often feel isolated in command and disliked by everyone), and in general, treat him as you would treat a colleague more experienced than you who has a lot to teach, even if that’s not the case. Your boss may have confidential information that guides his strategy, information that you do not have and that can make you less convinced of his direction out of sheer ignorance. Paradoxically, you can improve your work simply by avoiding questioning what your boss tells you to do and reasoning less about why you were assigned a task.

Remember that if you want to start your own business and therefore be aware of all the company’s strategies behind your work.


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Self-employment or project work

As we have already seen, if you work for yourself or have a project for others but have no time or place obligations to perform it, the possibility to build an environment where you can give your best with minimal effort, the possibility of building an effective and personalized working method increase significantly.

Here I will limit myself to a brief overview of suggestions because the possibilities are truly numerous (for an extravagant example, nothing prevents you from writing in a bathtub if it makes you more relaxed and productive).

But independent workers have a risk opposite to that of subordinates: they have a lot of freedom, and this can jeopardize work productivity on both sides (procrastination, difficulty in meeting deadlines, difficulty concentrating on a task when there are others still open) and on the other (hyperactivity, excessive work without interruptions, sleep deprivation, poor quality of life completely dominated by working hours).

Also, keep in mind that for some personality types, working without colleagues, alone, can be unsustainable in the long run.

Manage your time

For those working alone or with schedule flexibility, having at most one deadline without an external agency regulating work and rest times, time management is a problem to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible. There are various tested methods to regulate your work activity independently, both to insert breaks during work and to set intermediate deadlines compared to the main one.

time management at work

Here we will only mention the Pomodoro technique, which serves to introduce balanced breaks during work, which is used profitably by many professionals and is worth trying (although it is not suitable for everyone – some are maximally productive when they enter a state of flow, and interruptions make them lose productivity and concentration). Another technique is the Getting Things Done technique which helps prioritize and schedule tasks and follow a rational flow to improve your work.

Schedule rest

A topic related to time management that I thought of putting in a separate paragraph is the issue of rest. Rest is not a break between one work session and another where you recharge your batteries by drinking a glass of water to prepare for a new effort, but it is a real moment of regeneration.

work hard play harder

The world is full of entrepreneurs or managers who work 16 hours out of 24, 7 days a week, and not always (indeed rarely) are they among the most productive. To have a balance between family life, social life, and work life, how to improve work performance, I give you these tips, which are flexible and subject to changes depending on your personality type or restrictions in times of emergency.

    1. don’t work before going to bed. Plan for your workday to end at a certain time (for example, before dinner) and include a space of several hours between the end of work activity and sleep. Working before going to bed can produce interesting results (ideas that come to you during sleep and make you get up and jot them down screaming “Eureka!”), but in the long run, they lead to the deterioration of all activities other than work, resulting in problems of demotivation, burnout, and even depression. Before going to bed, relax for a few hours.
    2. don’t sacrifice sleep time to increase work time. This may seem like a great idea in the short term, and in certain cases of imminent deadlines, it may be necessary, but generally, try to get the right amount of sleep hours for your age and don’t go looking for esoteric techniques that allow you to sleep only three hours a night and wake up well-rested.
    3. one day a week should be a total rest day. Ideally, this day of rest should coincide with the rest day of your loved ones and friends so that you have the opportunity to talk, discuss, and build something even outside the mere work perspective. Ideally, this day should be Sunday. However, if your job does not allow you to rest on Sundays, choose another day to do so. On that day, try not to vent the frustrations of the workweek by “having a blast” with exhausting trips dancing nights, or alcohol excesses but try to do as little as possible with the people you care about the most.

Avoid distractions

During the actual work process, within the working phases and not breaks, one of the things that can be most difficult to avoid is distractions. If you work online, social media is just a click away; sometimes they even send you notifications, or you suddenly remember that you need to respond to a non-work email. There are libraries full of texts full of good advice for this problem. I’ll give you a simple one that I apply with some success to improve my work: if possible, work offline.

Get all the materials you may need, and disconnect/turn off the phone/close the studio door. There are undoubtedly people who can be extremely productive in an environment full of distractions, but what I can advise you, the best way to avoid distractions is not to be exposed to them. If you use the Pomodoro technique, you can go online during breaks, but be careful not to exceed the time limits you have set – which can be more difficult than you think.

Personalize your workspace

One of the greatest and underutilized freedoms that autonomous work provides is being able to customize your workspace in a much larger way than a dependent worker can do to improve your work performance.

improve your work area

You can choose the quality and quantity of light, you can choose the room temperature, and you can choose whether to surround yourself with images that reassure you or images that instead encourage and motivate you. You can experiment and see if you work better with a photo of your children on the desk or with a picture of a running tiger. You can check if you work better in an organized and minimalist space or in a chaotic and disorganized space where, however, you move comfortably and quickly. You can listen to jazz music work in silence or turn up nu-metal at full volume.

Since there is no general recipe for building the space within which you are most productive, my advice is to experiment. If you normally work on a desk that looks like a warehouse, try working on a practically clutter-free desk and see how you work better. If you normally work in silence, try working with Bach in the background. If you use the Pomodoro technique, try having the time calculated by an application or try with a physical object, perhaps canonically shaped like a tomato, or an hourglass. Do some experiments, and slowly you can build the perfect workstation for you – even if it may be terrible for anyone else.


Work is a relational activity between you, the subject you have to work on, the people you share your workspace with, and the people you relate to professionally – for example, clients. Being a dynamic and not static activity, it is not appropriate to talk about how to improve work performance: it would be more appropriate to talk about making your work as suitable as possible for that particular work contingency.

So, to exaggerate, there is no perfect way to work, and the way of working can always be improved. Relationships change, and with them, the way of working changes. Your goal should not be to achieve an impossible perfection but to give the best possible with the material you have available. Physical, conceptual, temporal, human, software, and hardware material. You can thus cease to be continually stretched to do better and instead have the reassuring awareness that you are doing your best under the given conditions – or at least that you are doing your best to do your best. The desire for perfection is always the worst enemy of good work.

An athletics coach had asked his runners to run at 85% of their capabilities, citing the need for additional training after the race. The surprising result was that the runners who were asked not to give their maximum, but rather close to it (85%), achieved better times than those asked to give 100%. Performance stress leads to errors, wastes energy, and hinders your ability to improve work performance. Try doing the same: aim for nearly your best, at 85%, in every task you undertake.

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